Tag Archives: Celtics

Rondo Does It One-Handed

This headline could have gone in any number of ways. Dr. Richard Kimble-based. Def Leppard drummer/Hysteria pun-full. Perhaps even a Jim Abbott reference. But we’ll keep it simple — just like Rajon Rondo did with his post-game comments describing his grotesque elbow dislocation he suffered and subsequently returned from in the Celtics do-or-diesque Game 3 win over the Heat tonight. “I thought I could try to change the game’s momentum by getting to the ball defensively,” said Rondo. “I only need two legs for that.”

Well then.

If you haven’t seen the injury and want to, here is the brutality in image, GIF and video form.

Matt Moore does a good job expressing how we shouldn’t go overboard on asserting that Rondo’s return won this game for Boston. But this dude is tough as railroad spikes, and this will still be forever known as The Rondo Game. In a way, it’s a microcosm (in terms of importance/immortality) of Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals in which doubtful-to-play Willis Reed limped his way into the starting lineup and hit a few shots early to help propel his Knicks to the title. In reality, if you’re going to credit one man with New York’s 113-98 victory over the Lakers, it must be Clyde Frazier, who put up 36 points, 19 assists and 7 boards. As Clyde famously said, “Willis provided the inspiration while I provided the devastation.”

Sticking to that, tonight, Rondo brought the inspiration while KG most certainly brought the devastation. Garnett’s 28 points (on 20 shots) and 15 boards were a true flashback to his MVP days and, along with a great night for Paul Pierce, gave Celtics fans new hope that the old champs may be able to knock off the young upstarts yet.

Furthermore, more so than being like the Willis/Clyde game, this one may be closer to two memories in Celtics lore: the Larry Bird concussion game and the Cs 1973 Eastern Conference Finals during which John Havlicek separated his shoulder and played a few games essentially one-handed.

In any event, here are a few post-game thoughts from Kevin Garnett on Rondo’s effort.

  • “Shorty’s a real tough dude and I seen him play through some hellafied* injuries. I saw his face and I knew he was beat up.”
  • “I’m not going through the list of injuries that yall are unaware of … but I’ve seen him play through some horrific injuries.”
  • “When he came in, I was just like ‘that’s typical Rondo.'”
  • “I dunno what he’s gonna be like when he’s 35, but—for right now—he’s … showing a lot of heart. A lot of grit.”

True grit.

Who knows if he will play in Game 4, but even if he doesn’t and the Heat ultimately beat the Celtics, no one will ever forget this game.

Lastly, below is the most marquee play from Rajon after the injury: him picking Chris Bosh’s pocket with his left hand, something he barely used post-injury, and dunking with his right, the hand he used to snatch one-armed boards, drive to the hoop and throw cross-court bounce passes.

* I wasn’t sure whether this should be “hellafied” like “qualified” and “dignified” or “hella fide” like “bona fide.” AP Style Guide proved no help. Makes more sense with the former, but my first instinct was the latter.

At Long Last, It’s Miami vs. Boston

Finally, it has come to this. Those pesky Bulls had to crash the party, had to make this series take place one round early, but never mind them. While Chicago sweeps the Hawks, all eyes will be on this.

Heat vs. Celtics, Evil vs.Good, free agency vs. the trading market, tampering vs. a little help from your friends, individual Rucker Park basketball vs. championship-level synergy.

Sunday afternoon, it begins — and all we have to do is sit back and watch, pens drawn, narratives abound.

That said, those of us who want to watch a basketball series and not the ultimate battle of clashing basketball philosophies that don’t clash at all are in for a treat as well. Seven All-Stars will take the court Sunday for the start of a four-to-seven-game series. At least 6 future Hall of Famers will play. And if we’re lucky, Hubie Brown will be in the announcing booth, pointing out every important thing we’re watching.

But what exactly do we need to be watching when they tip-off?

I’m glad you asked.

Who’s Guarding Lebron James?

I’ll let Tom Haberstroh take this one, because he’s much smarter than you, me, and everybody.

According to Newmann and Oliver, Pierce checked LeBron 69 percent of the time, with Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Marquis Daniels (no longer with the team) filling in the rest. But against Pierce, LeBron shot just 43 percent from the field and his efficiency plummeted to depths rarely seen from him. In fact, LeBron scored 75 points per 100 possessions with Pierce covering him, down from his 93 points per 100 possessions when guarded by all other Celtics defenders.

We’ve seen this going on in previous Lebron vs. Boston series. Though Boston guards Lebron in a team-wide manner, having Pierce spearhead the defensive effort is key – more than ever when the defensive monstrosity that is Jeff Green is the primary second option. Boston needs Pierce in prime shape, hoping that working on Lebron won’t take the same toll it has taken on his offensive game in the past.

Where’s Dwyane Wade?

In four games against Boston this year, Dwyane Wade is shooting 28% from the field. His true shooting percentage isn’t much better, at a disturbingly low 38%. He registered 21 turnovers to 21 assists, and got to the line only 5.8 times a game (after averaging 8.6 for the year). The narrative dictates that Wade is clutch and Lebron is not, that Wade shows up for the playoffs and that Lebron does not, and that Wade is a good person and Lebron is not, but with Lebron’s averages against Boston on par with his season numbers (29, 6.5, 6.5 on 56.2 TS%, albeit 5 turnovers), the onus to show up will be on the former Finals MVP.

Will Rajon Be Rajon?

In three wins against the Heat, Rajon Rondo had 43 assists. In one loss, he had 5. This is obviously a very cut-and-dry way to look at things, with millions of other factors going in to every one of those 4 regular season games, but the difference is simultaneously astonishing and extremely logical. When Rondo is at the top of his game, penetrating at will and finding his teammates, this Boston offense is a completely different beast. When Rondo is not well, the offense boggles down to a 9-7 March or a 4-4 April.

Who Plays Center?

Joel Anthony has risen from national punchline to cult hero, and with good reason. The handless +/- monster has had a strong effect during the regular season series between these two teams, playing fantastic defense on Kevin Garnett in Miami’s blowout April win. In fact, the Celtics have only scored 89.7 points per 100 possessions with Joel on the court, compared to 99.6 when Zydrunas Ilguaskas is out there.

The picture flips on offense. By replacing Joel’s dunk air-balling goodness with Z’s pick-and-pop acumen, the Heat’s offense vs. Boston jumps a staggering 14 points per 100 possessions. Balancing the two centers (perhaps occasionally playing centerless when Boston trots Garnett out to the pivot) will be key for the Heat.

(Just for kicks, in case one of you still thinks Erick Dampier is a valid NBA center: Miami has scored 54.4 points per 100 possessions against Boston with Damp on the floor. It should be noted that this took place for only 6 minutes all season, but hey, why take notice of sample sizes when making fun of Erick Dampier?)

The center position is just as important from Boston’s side as well, if only because of the increasingly unlikely scenario that Shaquille O’neal ever takes the court again. Shaq was a key part of Boston’s torrid start to the season, which included two closer-than-the-score-indicates wins over these same Heat. Miami has no one on it’s roster who can handle Shaq.

Sadly, it seems as if 39 years of humongousness have finally done the Diesel in.

The Supporting Casts

Miami is the big 3 and nobody else, while Boston is a TEAM. Right? Anybody?

This line of thinking should probably go down the drain at this point. Beyond Boston’s 4 all stars, the team has been absolutely atrocious. Adding on to the Jeff Green outlash is just plain cruel at this point, but Glen Davis hasn’t looked much better, and Jermaine O’neal looks about as creaky as the frequent and generic punchlines make him out to be. Delonte West is shooting 27% in these playoffs so far, and while this probably improves considerably, he’s hardly been the model of consistency these past few years. Boston’s fifth  best player might be Nenad Krstic at this point, which says a lot.

Meanwhile, Joel Anthony has been fantastic defensively, and the James Jones/Mario Chalmers combo are shooting a combined 39% from three. Hardly spectacular, but with rest between games and enabling Lebron, Wade and Bosh to play upwards of 40 minutes a game, the Heat don’t really need spectacular. All they need is to drag Boston’s supporting cast down with their’s, which at the moment, seems very plausible.

Who Shows Up?

A simplistic question, without much analytical standing.

Yet, this will decide the series.

Miami has shown a disturbing lack of urgency throughout this season. The reasons as to why now become completely irrelevant – from here on out, Miami runs the risk of it’s season ending. The urgency should accompany that prospect.

Similarly, we have no idea which Boston arrives. The Celtics aren’t as bad as their post all-star play indicates, but expecting them to flip the switch all the way back up, even if they did it last year, is an extreme leap of faith. And as impressive as they looked in the final 2 games against the Knicks, they were also very close to losing twice on their home floor, to the Knicks.

Prediction, Just Because It Has To Be Done

The Heat are not going to blow the Celtics out. Boston is too proud, the defense is too good, and Miami still lacks the cohesion to pull it off. And Boston is not going to blow Miami out, because Miami has the two best players in the series, in a sport where this sort of thing matters. (Don’t give me the “New York had the two best players in the series too!” bit, because we know better.) It will be a close series, with low scoring and high drama. But this Boston team needs too many things to go just right, and unlike last season, when everything did go just right, I don’t think Lebron skips Game 5.

Heat in 7.

Jeff Green After “The Perkins Deal”

This article is a guest post from Michael Pina, creator of the all-everything NBA blog Shaky Ankles. His work has been featured on Hardwood Paroxysm and linked to The Point Forward, Ball Don’t Lie and True Hoop. Follow him on Twitter @ShakyAnkles.

In the Playoffs, Jeff Green will try to convince the world that Ainge made the right move.

When Jeff Green has the ball, 99 times out of 100, there’s a physical advantage. He’s faster than almost every power forward in the league — allowing his face-up game to exploit lumbering monsters with blow bys off the dribble — and bigger than most threes, opening up post play that creates passing and scoring opportunities for orbiting teammates. Defensively you would guess this to be an adverse dilemma, but you would be wrong. Green has feet that could win a dance-off and an upper body chiseled down from a block of granite.

The trade that ripped Jeff Green from the only professional team he had ever known and dropped him in Boston was the most blindsided hit fans of both teams have taken in years. (For Oklahoma City it had no precedent.) In its aftermath national pundits dubbed it “The Perkins Deal.” Never “The Jeff Green Trade..

Normally when such a transaction is made, in every sport, it’s nicknamed after The Best Player involved. I know it’s difficult and possibly pointless, but throwing context, chemistry, and timing out the window, Jeff Green is that Best Player. He’s more versatile, athletic, and technically skilled than Kendrick Perkins; he has the type of talent to be a Sixth Man of the Year winner on this Boston Celtics team, but thanks to the sheer shock and abruptness of the deadline deal, Perkins is the one who everyone talks about.

It’s all about the big guy down low: the Thunder got tougher, now Ibaka can roam the lane and block shots from the weak side — and he’s better than Green anyway! Boston lost its identity while Oklahoma City found one seems to be the deal’s theme; this shouldn’t just motivate Jeff Green, it should piss him off. Badly. It should eat away at his inner soul, it should bother him like the most insatiable middle-of-the-back itch of his life.

He’s being called soft on Boston’s sports talk radio every 15 minutes and is playing with a pre-2009 Lamar Odom-like mentality; it’s vexing for many: Danny, Doc, Perkins’ old teammates/friends, and Celtics fans. But really, the one who needs to look in the mirror and wonder why such overbearing talent isn’t being put to its natural use is Jeff Green. These games right now are important for everybody, but individually on a financial, respect and reputation/stigma based context, no one needs them more than Jeff Green.

Through his first two Playoff games with Boston, he barely blipped on New York’s radar: 12 total shots taken for 10 points (one free throw converted), three rebounds, zero assists, zero steals, and six fouls. He had a little more of a presence in Game 3, but still missed more shots than he made and picked up 5 fouls.

Green isn’t just playing with the weight of Perkins on his shoulders, he’s a free agent after this season and how he plays right now will dictate how he’s perceived for the next stage of his young career. Green needs a role. Great, we all know that. But maybe it’s a different one than Ainge had in mind. Having him defend Carmelo Anthony for the first few quarters and allowing Paul Pierce to save energy for fourth quarter offense is huge, and there’s no doubt that should both Boston and Miami advance, Green will be assigned LeBron James duty for extended stretches, but on the other end let’s see him run free. Let’s see Jeff Green turn into a 24-year-old Gerald Wallace. Let’s see him bounce around the court, throw his body at the glass, run up and down in transition and get rewarded with beautiful opportunities from Rajon Rondo. That’s the role Green should have.

People compare him with James Posey and the sixth man role he had in Boston during their 2008 title run, but Jeff Green can do so much more; he can be a liberal Posey, knocking down shots but also creating his own offense and responsibly locking down the opposition’s star so his aging teammates needn’t worry. What Posey had that Green lacks, however, is simple: Confidence.

Posey won a ring with Miami before he joined Garnett, Pierce, and Allen in Boston. He had been there done that and understood more than anyone — save Kobe Bryant — what it took to win in that 2008 championship. Green doesn’t have the slightest clue, and that’s fine. Nobody expects it from him, and it isn’t why he was brought over. What he should do, though, is play fearless, and the only thing holding him back right now is himself, which is silly because statistically he’s held his own when given an opportunity.

Danny Granger can attest to the fact that, physically, Green is a load to deal with.

According to Hoopdata.com, since coming to the Celtics, Green has the team’s highest field goal percentage from 16-23 feet with 51%.  He has a lower percentage of shots assisted from 3-9 feet than Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett. (He’s second on the team in attempts per game from that distance, behind only Garnett.) His percentage of shots assisted from 10-15 feet dropped from 62.5% in OKC to 14.3% in Boston, which is very interesting.

The Celtics are a team built on discipline and execution. They rarely go for any isolation plays apart from Paul Pierce at the end of a quarter, Kevin Garnett on the baseline, or Glen Davis on the wing. Apart from that most of their offense is dictated by their defense’s ability to create turnovers and quick points in transition or complicated flex plays carried out by Rajon Rondo’s ingenious decision making. This shows Doc Rivers’ want and need in letting Green create some production on his own.

His usage percentage actually went up since coming to Boston, along with his true shooting percentage. Mostly everything else stayed the same, with rebounding numbers going down a bit, which is probably due to Boston’s defensive style of play that mostly prioritizes backwards retreat over board crashing — although in the playoffs they should rise for Green as he’s used more as a rebounding presence.

As the regular season came to a close and Boston began to rest their starters, Jeff Green stepped his game up. He took 33 shots, shot 43% from the floor, and grabbed 23 rebounds in those last two contests. But nobody remembers February through April once the season is over. It’s what occurs in the playoffs we mount on our mental plaques.

Jeff Green has at least two weeks, but more likely a month or two, to shape his reputation into that of a valuable championship contributor. Whether he does or not is the ultimate scale tipper: Can Green cash in or check out? Will the Celtics overcome age, expectations, and injuries to win their second title in four years? Only then will his name be inscribed in history books as the headlining piece of that maligned deadline deal.

Everyone will finally recognize Jeff Green as The Best Player involved.

The Big Conductor

My favorite part about Shaq conducting the Boston Pops in a tuxedo is that it doesn’t even seem weird. At all. I’m just like, “Nice form. I wonder if he actually practiced this or if he’s just waving his arms around since the musicians don’t really need his help for this song?” Not for a second was I all, “Why would they let a basketball player do this?”

Because he’s not a basketball player, you see.

He’s Shaq. (video via NBA Offseason)